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Epichloë Endophyte Infection Rates and Alkaloid Content in Commercially Available Grass Seed Mixtures in Europe


Krauss, Jochen; Vikuk, Veronika; Young, Carolyn A; Krischke, Markus; Mueller, Martin J; Baerenfaller, Katja (2020). Epichloë Endophyte Infection Rates and Alkaloid Content in Commercially Available Grass Seed Mixtures in Europe. Microorganisms, 8(4):498.

Abstract

Fungal endophytes of the genus Epichloë live symbiotically in cool season grass species and can produce alkaloids toxic to insects and vertebrates, yet reports of intoxication of grazing animals have been rare in Europe in contrast to overseas. However, due to the beneficial resistance traits observed in Epichloë infected grasses, the inclusion of Epichloë in seed mixtures might become increasingly advantageous. Despite the toxicity of fungal alkaloids, European seed mixtures are rarely tested for Epichloë infection and their infection status is unknown for consumers. In this study, we tested 24 commercially available seed mixtures for their infection rates with Epichloë endophytes and measured the concentrations of the alkaloids ergovaline, lolitrem B, paxilline, and peramine. We detected Epichloë infections in six seed mixtures, and four contained vertebrate and insect toxic alkaloids typical for Epichloë festucae var. lolii infecting Lolium perenne. As Epichloë infected seed mixtures can harm livestock, when infected grasses become dominant in the seeded grasslands, we recommend seed producers to test and communicate Epichloë infection status or avoiding Epichloë infected seed mixtures.

Keywords: Epichloë spp.; Lolium perenne; alkaloids; cool-season grass species; grass endophytes; horses; infection rates; livestock; perennial ryegrass; toxicity.

Abstract

Fungal endophytes of the genus Epichloë live symbiotically in cool season grass species and can produce alkaloids toxic to insects and vertebrates, yet reports of intoxication of grazing animals have been rare in Europe in contrast to overseas. However, due to the beneficial resistance traits observed in Epichloë infected grasses, the inclusion of Epichloë in seed mixtures might become increasingly advantageous. Despite the toxicity of fungal alkaloids, European seed mixtures are rarely tested for Epichloë infection and their infection status is unknown for consumers. In this study, we tested 24 commercially available seed mixtures for their infection rates with Epichloë endophytes and measured the concentrations of the alkaloids ergovaline, lolitrem B, paxilline, and peramine. We detected Epichloë infections in six seed mixtures, and four contained vertebrate and insect toxic alkaloids typical for Epichloë festucae var. lolii infecting Lolium perenne. As Epichloë infected seed mixtures can harm livestock, when infected grasses become dominant in the seeded grasslands, we recommend seed producers to test and communicate Epichloë infection status or avoiding Epichloë infected seed mixtures.

Keywords: Epichloë spp.; Lolium perenne; alkaloids; cool-season grass species; grass endophytes; horses; infection rates; livestock; perennial ryegrass; toxicity.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Microbiology
Life Sciences > Virology
Health Sciences > Microbiology (medical)
Language:English
Date:31 March 2020
Deposited On:11 Jan 2021 15:18
Last Modified:01 Feb 2021 16:20
Publisher:MDPI Publishing
ISSN:2076-2607
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms8040498
PubMed ID:32244510

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